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EEEKKKK!!! Hello Hello!!
I can’t tell you just how excited I am to have you join us here for the KICK OFF of my first annual Upcycling Challenge WORLDWIDE! If you’ve been following this blog, or me on social media this challenge was no surprise right? lol It was bound to happen at some point! For Kick Off Week, myself and the first 4 SewingPortfolios Diamond Ambassadors will be sharing some tips and our upcycled makes through a series of blog posts in order to show you just how easy upcycling can be. We’ll be using fabrics releasing later this year sponsored by Michael Miller Fabrics to showcase our makes and to sneak peek to you what collections are coming soon. The goal is also to jump start YOUR creative juices for when the challenge opens up to the public on May 11th! Today, I’m going to share with you some of my Upcycling Tips complete with some  actionable to-do’s, so please get comfy! I write the same way I talk so its going to be a long one hahaha!

Specific for this challenge, I upcycled an adult button down shirt to a summer top for #TheSpiritedOne pairing it with some fabric to create this super cute summer outfit and will be using it as a reference point for my tips. LET’S GET STARTED!


Whenever the topic of Upcycling comes up, I’m always met with comments like:

“I would have never imagined something like that” 

“Upcycling seems too hard, I can’t wrap my head around it” 

“I wouldn’t even know where or even how to start! ” 

With that said, let’s start our Tips off assuming you’ve never upcycled before, or have a hard time coming up with ideas… here’s my EASIEST and Most IMPORTANT TIP:


I promise this crazy talk will make sense as you read further lol. Forget how hard you think upcycling is, forget trying to wrap your head around it and forget all the anxiety it gives you.


Actionable To Do: Listen to Master Yoda. Seriously tho, right now as you are reading this, pause – close your eyes and forget everything you think you know about upcycling! Here…I’ll wait…(no cheating!)…..Have you forgotten? Yes??  Good, now on to Tip #2.


Now that your mind is clear, think of ready to wear garments as JUST fabric. Nothing else, just fabric! Doing this allows you to envision a ton of “potential” finished items. #TrueStory: Somewhere along my sewing journey I found myself subconsciously deconstructing and reconstructing people’s garments in my head as they walked by me. At first it was really trippy because It felt like I had unlocked some kind of sewing super powers! I soon discovered that doing this allowed me to shift my mind’s eye to see beyond the manufactured finished item. I could envision how to get more things from a specific piece of the garment, like a child’s bodice piece from an adult’s sleeve…or a tiny dress from an adult skirt – see where I’m going with this? Now that you’ve activated your “3rd” eye…make notes of what you “see”.

Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018

Actionable To Do: Grab a pen and a piece of paper, (preferably a notebook because this is a good exercise to practice) and take a moment right now, (again…I’ll wait), and try to deconstruct in your mind the top you are wearing, or someone else is wearing that you can see.  Once you’ve deconstructed it, envision pattern pieces you can get from the body of your shirt (front and back) and the sleeves (left and right) and write them down; or sketch them…whatever works for you.


Truth be told, the best way to shop is with a $0 budget!  So shop your own closets. You’ll probably find a bunch of “last season” clothes that will never be worn again, some that are probably too big, or too small but are still of good quality.

Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018

Actionable To Do: Take an afternoon and go through everyone’s closet. You might be surprised at how many usable garments you find.


The best place to get a bargain for your buck is at thrift stores or garage sales. Here’s what I look for when I’m shopping thrift stores or garage sales:

  1. Garments that are lightly used.
  2. Garments that have unique features (beading work, embroidery, patches, buttons, zippers, fabric pattern prints etc)
  3. Garments that fall into the bigger size ranges. For the obvious reason that bigger sizes mean more fabric to use.

This top pictured was purchased from Journey House Thrift Store in Pasadena.


Actionable To Do: Take some time to go thrift shopping keeping those 3 tips in mind. 



While this might seem like a tedious task, I highly recommend using your seam ripper to disassemble your garment rather than simply cutting into it. I find that disassembling a garment at the seams and then giving all the pieces a good press, gives you more fabric space to work.

Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018

Actionable to Do: Learn to love your seam ripper. Haha! 


Upcycles are fun, easy and fast when you can use the original tailored finishes of a garment like the hem, collar or button packet to your advantage. Wasn’t sure if this tip should have gone before #5 but it guess it does depend on what your finished upcycled garment will be. For example: I kept the button placket and the hem of the original shirt when creating this top.

Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018

Actionable To Do:  Think of ways to keep the collar, hem or button plackets or other tailored finishes when upcycling. 


Use existing pattern pieces to construct your garment. You can draft your own or use a commercial pattern piece.  Also, feel free to take it a step further and creative with your patterns, hack them and add elements! For example, for this top I used  The Camellia Dress from Phat Quarters , I choose this pattern because I really loved the look of the front and back darts, but the pattern doesn’t come with a ruffled collar option so I improvised! I used fabric from the sleeves of the original shirt to make the ruffles (pretty much 2 long rectangular pieces, cut, hemmed and gathered). The pattern also called for a lined bodice, but because I wanted to keep the original button placket I had to create facings for the neck and armholes, which still resulted in a nice clean finish.


Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018

Here’s what the insides look like:


For the Bottom I used the Slim Trousers from Lil Luxe Collection, and added a little extra touch! Instead of the back pocket faux flaps the pattern comes with, I decided to install a single welt pocket. This idea was inspired by one of our SP Diamond Ambassadors Cassandra, from her post HEREI loved that I could use a small piece of scrap fabric from the original upcycled shirt to add a little peek-a-boo feature here.

Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018

Abbie calls it “the place for secret snacks” lol.


Speaking of secret, the fabric I used for the pants is from the Les Jardin collection from Michael Miller Fabric (shipping to stores in September). This collection is described as: “Behind the wrought-iron fencelies a beautiful secret garden, Les Jardins. Climbing vines and delicate packed blooms adorn the collection, while flowers float through the ombre sky of the double border.” I think promise the ‘secret’ pocket and the fabric description was just a cool coincidence. lol

Actionable To Do:  Make a note of the patterns you like that have a great fit, and use those to help construct a new garment, and don’t forget to get creative! There’s so much possibilities with a single pattern block. Also, it’s a good practice to lay all pattern pieces down before you cut, much like you would if you were using fabric from the store to be sure you’ll be able to cut all your pattern pieces out.

BONUS TIP: Use Reynolds Kitchens Parchment Paper with Smart Grid lines to help you find a perfect center every time. I did this so I could be sure the button placket remained in the center. Simply trace your pattern piece on the parchment paper, cut and use that as your new pattern piece. Remember to position one of the grid lines at the center (to find your center just fold original pattern piece in half).  Here’s a handy LINK to the parchment paper. 

Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018


Combine pieces of your old garment with store bought fabric to create a whole piece. Or you can create an entire outfit ensemble by complimenting your upcycled make with a second and even third sew from store bought fabric. For example: This Chambray shirt worked so well with this floral fabric to create a fun summer outfit.

Candice Ayala's Upcycling Challenge 2018

Actionable To Do: Think of ways to combine old and new fabric and to create something brand new! 


And there you have it! Those are my Top 8 tips to kick off this years Upcycling Challenge! Have I gotten your creative juices flowing yet?

Now, I did promise that I would share details of the prize packages so here goes:


Exciting right? Just remember, to get ALL the details about the TERMS, RULES and GUIDELINES of the challenge, you must subscribe to get all that information.

And again, it’s Kick Off WEEK so starting tomorrow until Friday, we’ll be seeing more tips and inspiration coming in from the Sewing Portfolio Diamond Ambassadors. If you’ve already subscribed to the challenge, you’ll get an email letting you know a new post is up. If you haven’t subscribed to the challenge yet, please click HERE to do so, and if you’re still on the fence about it, here’s the line up so you can follow along with us:

Monday: Candice Ayala 
Tuesday: Steph Carton of Eli Monster
Wednesday: Gemia Carroll of Phat Quarters
Thursday: Cassandra Gobin of Pearberry Lane
Friday: Liesel Engelbrecht of It’s Liesel

You can follow a long with us from now until the challenge opens up to the public on May 11th and you can join the challenge anytime between May 11 and June 30th 2018! I hope this post has inspired, encouraged and excited you! I’m really looking forward to seeing your upcycled makes and learning what tip you used or maybe learning some new tips from you! Or comment below and tell me what tip you found useful or even what you’re thinking of making!

Wishing you an ahhh-mazing week! xoxo


16 thoughts on “Upcycling Challenge 2018 – KICK OFF!!

  1. Hmmm… for some reason my calendar has picked up the deadline as July 1, 5pm EDT. I guess I won’t finish it in time if it’s really today. Dammit, Google!

  2. I love this!! I actually just barely upcycled something and posted about it… can I include that even though it was a few days outside the challenge?

    1. I’m so excited to see all you guys’ submissions Jodi! I doubt that very much, there will be a mixture of all sorts of sewing! =) I would love to see variety!

  3. What a great read Candice. I’ve have a jump start on the upcycling & have put aside (hoarded! lol) some things until the time was right!

    Really looking forward to giving this a go 🙂

  4. Love it, great tips and the welt pocket you added is a perfect addition to the pants, the chambray shirt compliments the Les Jardin MM fabric so well.

  5. Wow! Your tips are amazing! I can’t wait to see what everyone post this week! I am a beginner, beginners to work in learning a lot. I do plan on participating in this challenge it i wow! Your tips are amazing! I can’t wait to see what everyone post this week! I am a beginner sewer and learning a lot. I do plan on participating in this challenge it sounds amazing! Thank you so much for sharing your awesome talent with us! By the way, your daughter is super adorable! Just found you on Instagram and loving the photos!

    1. Hi Tmika! Remember, everyone was a beginner! Just keep doing!! Upcycling is a great way to “practice” too! Glad you’ll be joining us! Thanks for finding me on IG! <3

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